Baler swimmers shine in MBL Finals

Zander Bonnet had another outstanding performance in the MBL Championships. Photo by Robert Eliason.

There’s something about Mary (Hagins)—and the San Benito High swimming team. The Haybalers had another solid performance in last Saturday’s Monterey Bay League Championships at Hartnell College. Blending a mix of savvy seniors and talented underclassmen, San Benito had a number of standouts shine.

Sophomore Hagins—who attended GECA in Gilroy last year as a freshman—won the 100-yard backstroke in 1 minute, 1.20 seconds and the 200 individual medley in 2:13.95. The latter race was never close, as Hagins eventually won by a whopping 7 seconds.

“Mary was flying there in the 200,” Balers coach Fred Latimore said. “She was almost a full lap ahead (of the nearest competitor) at the end. She is a special swimmer who has a lot of talent. Some people sort of fight the water and you can see how she glides in the water.”

Hagins has hit Central Coast Section qualifying times in three individual events: the 200 IM, 100 back and 100 butterfly. Hagins will compete in the 100 back and 100 fly and all three relay events: the 200 medley relay, 200 free and 400 free. All three relay teams consist of the same four girls: Hagins, Elizabeth Fleming, Jaya Waller and Maya Villegas.

The quartet are formidable because of their versatility, with the 400 free being their best event in terms of times relative to the section’s best. With a personal-record (PR) of 3:49.05, the quartet has a chance to advance out of the CCS Preliminary round (they would need to place in the top 16 to advance to the Finals).

“That (400 free relay) was the highlight Saturday,” Hagins said. “We had been trying to go under a certain time, and once we got it done, we started screaming and giving each other high-fives. We were really excited.”

Fleming, who had anther outstanding meet, was equally pumped up.

“We were congratulating each other and just ecstatic,” she said. “It’s really cool because all four of us are friends at school, too. When you’re close with people, it makes the accomplishment that much more enjoyable. The best thing is we have another year together to improve and get even faster.”

Indeed, Waller is a freshman and Villegas a sophomore, and with another strong off-season, there is no telling just how fast the quartet can go. Fleming, a junior, repeated as the fastest girl in the league, taking the 50 free in 25.33 while having the second best overall time in the 100 free in 55.61.

Even though Fleming—who qualified early in the season for CCS in the 50 free—didn’t qualify for CCS in the 100 free, she produced a PR. That in itself made for a successful race. Hagins has added a boost to the team after attending GECA last year. Wanting to be a part of the high school swim team experience, Hagins made the move to enroll at San Benito for the 2017-2018 school year.

Hagins said this year’s season in the pool has been more of a plateau, but one she deems necessary to move forward.

“Plateaus happen to every swimmer at one point,” she said. “But I expect to come out of it way better mentally and physically.”

Waller, a freshman sensation, took second overall in the 100 breast stroke in 1:10.05 and second overall in the 200 free in 2:05.94. Waller has a CCS qualifying time in the 100 breast stroke and 100 free, nailing the later time by leading off the first leg of the 400 relay with a 55.69 split (the CCS cut is 56.09).

“Jaya is the highlight of the freshmen class along with Adam Bonnet,” Latimore said.

Indeed, Bonnet had a strong finals showing, taking the second best overall time in the 500 free in 5:04.31 and the third best overall in the 200 free in 1:51.16. Latimore said Bonnet really came on strong near the end of the season.

“The last two to three weeks you really got to see how special he is,” Latimore said. “Adam missed a little time at the beginning of the year because he was in the robotics club, so he missed some conditioning and stuff. But he’s dedicated and it will be fun to watch how much faster he can get.”

Although Bonnet didn’t qualify for CCS in either event, at least one person thinks Bonnet will be one of the top-ranked swimmers by the time he’s a senior. That happens to be Bonnet’s older brother, Zander, who has been outstanding the last four years playing both water polo and swimming. And Zander didn’t say that for effect or because he happens to be Adam’s older brother.

“He’s really good,” Zander said. “It’s been great being able to be on the same team this year. He will be ranked among the top CCS swimmers by the time he’s a senior—he’s that good.”

The same can be said of Zander, who won the 100 breast stroke in 1:02.46 and was second overall in the 200 IM in 2:04.62. Bonnet won the 100 breast stroke by 4 seconds, displaying tremendous versatility after swimming the back stroke and freestyle events in last year’s MBL Championships.

Bonnet, whose interest in being strong in all of the strokes led him to swimming the breast stroke this season for the first time, has a CCS qualifying time in the 100 breast stroke and is also a part of the 400 free relay and 200 individual medley relay teams that have advanced to sectionals. The 400 free relay squad cruised to victory in 3:23.83 and the 200 medley relay team was dominant in winning in 1:44.16.

The relay teams feature the Bonnet brothers, Josh Corrigan and Ryan Okubo. Corrigan took third overall in the 50 free in 24.18, Okubo finished third overall in the 100 breast stroke in 1:06.75, and Gordon Rianda had a pair of third-place overall finishes in the 100 back in 1:00.21 and 100 fly in 59.75.

Three of the four members of the 400 free relay team hit 50 seconds on their splits. Zander said the highlight of his day was qualifying in the medley relay.

“It was something new to qualify in and it was cool to be able to do it with my brother,” said Bonnet, who led off the relay swimming the backstroke and also nailed a PR in the 200 IM by 2 seconds. “We’ve done it in the freestyle, so this was kind of new and refreshing.”

Latimore said the entire team performed well, particularly the boys 200 IM relay team and the girls 400 free relay squad.

“The girls’ times progressively got better, and they continue to shave time,” he said. “They got out to a big lead and didn’t look back. The boys have come on strong lately, and they won by a good margin.”

Latimore credits assistant coach Jud Shutts—a former University of Oregon swimmer—as being key in the team’s success. Numerous swimmers have mentioned how Shutts has helped them refine their technique, which leads to faster times.

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